getting fancy: home decor shops in los angeles

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Snapped at Proof Bakery in Atwater Village. Their sandwiches are Nicole Kidman to-die-for levels. 

Last week, I told an old friend that the only way I’m leaving Los Angeles is in a body bag. It’s morbid, but sometimes the extreme makes an impression. Two years ago, I told everyone I knew that I was moving across the country because I wanted physical and geographic space. Part of me wondered if I would love the place I’d always liked visiting. I don’t drive or have a license–will not having a car in a city defined by its freeways and car culture be a problem? (No.) Would I fall into the caricature my east coast friends worried about? (No.) Would I miss the seasons? (No, but I sure do miss the rain.)

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 15 months and my only regret is that I didn’t move here sooner. I spent the first year living on the Westside, in Santa Monica, because I always wanted to live by water. Although it’s a beautiful, walkable city, it’s crazy expensive (think New York rents) and not particularly convenient. I’ve learned that if you don’t live within a 5-mile radius of someone, seeing people can become a challenge, especially when it can sometimes take 2 hours to travel 12 miles. Most of my friends live in mid-city or east, and most of my doctors are in Beverly Hills, so I’d sometimes sit in a car for 45 minutes en route to a check-up. But I digress.

I’ve lived in New York all of my life and its compact, navigable. Once you know New York, you know it, and I’ve become one of my generations that lamented the New York of their childhood. Now, the city feels like a whitewashed episode of a fancy television show–all expensive shops and heels on cobblestone. Even the places in Brooklyn where I knew as a child have become one line of Starbucks, yoga studios, and long-term tourists. I know these are sweeping generalizations, but it’s been hard to see the loss of a city’s character. Soho turned into a shopping mall. Mom and pop shops replaced by H&M. And while L.A. has its own gentrification issues (hello, Downtown?), it seems larger than New York with neighborhoods completely untouched. I think people have a certain impression of L.A. because of West Hollywood, Venice, and Santa Monica, but it’s more than that (god, I sound like an infomercial). There’s so much to see, so much to do. A few months ago, I traveled to The Huntington Library and Gardens in Pasadena, and I felt as if I was in another country. The museums are incredible, so much so that I became a LACMA member after the Guillermo del Toro exhibit. I’ve seen authors read downtown and in Silverlake. I’ve seen local artist exhibitions so far east it took me 90 minutes to get home, and a new friend of mine composes poems for outdoor operas.  Perhaps everything still feels new and I’m that long-term tourist, but every weekend is a new adventure here, a new village to suss out, new burger joints and taco stands to test out.

Insert segue.

Much of my work this year has revolved around creating visual stories for brands, which is a fancy way of saying I help brands architect and tell their story in a way that doesn’t sound contrived and cuts through the clutter. I only work with brands I believe in and people who view our relationship as a true partnership rather than a vendor assigned a PO, and I’ve been privileged to meet (and learn from) some extraordinarily talented people. I’ve also moved apartments (that cost of living thing), and since I spend a great deal of time at home, working, I want to make the space as inviting as it can be. That means going to flea markets and sales (hello, Pasadena!), as well as visiting some fancy shops to window-shop and sometimes buy items for my client shoots or for my home. I’ve rounded up some of the places I’ve been recently, and know this is an ongoing list since there are far more places to see!

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I found Midland on Instagram, and the carefully curated shop in Culver City lives up to the photographs. The two owners were event planners and after sourcing one-of-a-kind and local artist-created pieces for their clients, they decided to open a shop offering their finds. The shop is small but impeccably edited and styled. You’ll find handmade ceramics and delicate jewelry alongside flowy dresses, hard-to-find perfumes, and soaps, salts, books, toys, and Turkish towels. I tried the perfume snapped above, and I didn’t think it was “me” until I found myself sniffing my rest every few minutes and I decided to go back and pick up a scent that few others have — a mix of tobacco, bourbon, and roses.

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Another shop I found via Instagram was Rolling Greens Nursery, and my god, this place is beautiful. The above shot doesn’t do it justice. Here, you’ll find artists who offer up tailored real and faux arrangements for your home, a vast selection of greenery, as well as an abundant shop of cookbooks, ceramics, perfumes, candles, textiles, and decorations you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. I haven’t had a Christmas tree for most of my adult life, but I started investing in ornaments and seasonal decorations to make my home a little warmer this holiday season (supplementing my finds with tons of great stuff I scored at Target!)

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I’ve only just discovered DTLA Art’s District (perhaps because downtown reminds me of Dumbo and going there hasn’t really been my thing), but one of the greatest spots I found was Guerilla Atelier (above snap)–a cabinet of curiosities. From their website:

Juxtaposing exclusive hand crafted brands with the beauty and rawness of a 1920s warehouse, there is the distinct feeling of being in an intimate old world Paris salon rather than a traditional retail space.

I was privileged enough to meet the charming owner, who loves the macabre as much as I do. He’s stocked the space with well-known and obscure items, and the finest collection of Taschen books I’ve seen. My greatest find was the
Dalí cookbook, which has only recently resurfaced in print. You’ll easily spend an hour paging through their incredible display of coffee table books, each adorned with a glove for browsing pages. 

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If you’re an avid collector of vintage and minimalist furnishings and decor, you will love Hammer & Spear (above three photos). Also located in the Art’s District, but a little out of the way from the slew of shops and open-air markets, you feel a sense of warmth and coziness as soon as you enter the space. While the rich, dark hues just against my predilection for a lighter, cooler palette (I felt as if I needed a smoking jacket and a roaring fire), I loved their collection of writing tools (notebooks, pens, and other accouterments) and I fawned over their uber-pricey rug collection (I don’t think I’d ever spend five figures on a rug but to each their own). I did take home a reindeer hide, which was sustainably sourced from Finland (akin to leather, they used all of the reindeer as opposed to harvesting from farms), as well as a few ceramic mugs for a friend. 

Other favorites in DTLA include Alchemy Works & Poketo (two snaps, below). I just scored The Gentlewoman issue with Zadie Smith on the cover at the Culver City Poketo, and I’m still shaking.

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Possibly one of the fanciest home decor shops I’ve visited was Apartment at The Line (see below for bathroom #goals). Located amidst the trendy, upscales shops on Melrose Place in West Hollywood, the two-room shop perched above street level, styled as an apartment, may burn bonfires in your wallet, but it’ll give you smart home decor ideas. From bath oils, soaps, perfumes and bath and body to modernist furniture and tailored clothing (think Pragmatic, Alexander Wang, etc), if you are a minimalist at heart (raises hand), you will love this space. They have a sale going on, so if you have the cash money, live your life. I’ll be paying down my credit card debt over here.

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Do you have any favorite spots in Los Angeles? Great flea markets and small shops? Let me know as I’m always in the market for discovery. 

los angeles eats lovely living

hello, home

There was a time when I believed that home was simply a place where my mail was forwarded, and the only thing I loved about a house was leaving it. It’s depressing when you think about it–the feeling of not belonging to any one place, of closing a door and still not feeling relief, safe. I used to take pictures of the front doors of my apartment buildings and I’d rattle off a seemingly endless list of addresses. Sometimes I’d confuse the zip codes. Other times I strained to remember what the insides looked like. Did we have carpet? Was there a window in my room? What was the view? In some spaces, I didn’t have a bedroom door, while in others, I didn’t have a bedroom at all. And although I knew being rootless and uncommitted to a zip code was odd, the discomfort I experienced, the feeling of being displaced, is what felt normal. What kept me going was hope, the possibility that this new place could be a home. That I could erase all that had come before.

Yesterday, I asked my leasing agent: Are there trust-funders in this building? People who haven’t worked for what they have?

For most of my twenties, I moved. I lived in Riverdale, the Upper West Side, Little Italy, Battery Park, Chelsea, and two apartments in Park Slope. I shared a one-bedroom apartment with an actor turned psychologist and lived briefly with a man whom I once thought I’d marry. One of my movers was drunk and missing two fingers from his left hand and another broke my bed in four places. A move of 20 blocks in Brooklyn cost me nearly a thousand dollars, to which I responded, are you fucking kidding me? 

Rarely do I host housewarming parties because my homes have always felt so cold, where the possibility of warmth existed if they were torched and burned to the ground.

In earnest, I tried to make a home. I committed to a building in Park Slope for the better part of five years. In this building, I rented an apartment with a spacious deck I rarely used and endured a winter where I wore a coat indoors and used space heaters because the boiler kept breaking. Through all of this, I joked that you’d have to carry me out in a body bag I’d never leave. Who knew I’d swallow my words when a kind doctor swathed my Sophie in two towels and carried her lifeless body down three flights of stairs. The emptiness I felt in what I thought was my home was palpable. I felt the specter of her death and how I contributed to it in every room. I wrapped myself in blankets one night in August and slept on my deck with a bottle of wine because I couldn’t bear the insides. That winter I moved to another apartment one flight down with a new cat and the hope of a new life.

But…I felt unease, a disquiet that loomed larger than the space I’d been occupying. I grew irritated on the subway. I felt smothered in midtown. My home of 39 years had increasingly become a stranger. I no longer felt New York was home. But…keep moving.

It took another mammoth loss to make me realize I wanted something demonstrably different and new. Although I knew it was false comfort, I became tethered to the idea of a new place as a salve–much like what I believed in my childhood. It took moving across the country and away from my comfortable discomfort for me to wake up. The silence was deafening. The noise and maelstrom of New York were no longer a convenient distraction. And after 39 years of perpetual velocity, I collapsed in that quiet. I dealt with old losses and new. I confronted aspects of my character that made me wince. I took a lot of my life offline, reclaiming it. I did the daily work that was sometimes hard and more often rewarding.

I live in a place where I once contemplated taking my own life. I live in a place where my furniture took nearly two months to arrive. I live in a place where I never felt rooted. Ever since I moved in I felt in the betweens. It took me 40 years to realize that I have to be at home with myself before I stretch outward.

But I wanted to move, still. My apartment is highway robbery and it’s not conducive to a home office environment (I sometimes work for seven hours straight and typing on my couch is becoming a problem). Also, there’s too much memory. I wanted a place that reflected where I’m at in my life, not a constant reminder of that which I’ve endured. So I started looking at apartments. I toured a building where it became apparent that someone was shooting an adult film (the Yelp reviews confirmed this). I visited another where it felt I’d have to send out proof of life photos I was so far from life.

Then I found my home in an area of which I’m not familiar–Hancock Park. I looked at four apartments, and while the property was GORGEOUS and perfect, I felt meh about the spaces I’d seen. But before I left, my leasing agent became aware of an available space he hadn’t shown me. We rode the elevator to the top floor and we walked into the space that next month will be my new home.

I fell in love. The apartment is perfect for a true home office. It’s at the corner end of the building so it’s extremely quiet (a necessity for me since I’ve lived in buildings where people mistook an apartment complex for a drug-fueled rave). There are spaces I can use as a defacto office or lounge, and the location was walking distance (1/4 mile) to supermarkets, drug stores, dry cleaners and all the necessities.

I went through a lot this year, more than I wanted to bear. This wasn’t what I expected from turning 40. This wasn’t what I expected when I moved to Los Angeles. But for the first time in a long time, I feel at home with myself, flaws and all. Someone asked me recently what being on anti-depressants was like, and I said, it’s the difference between waking up and thinking this is all too much to waking up and thinking, okay, this is tough but it’s manageable. It’s the difference between succumbing and conquering. Most importantly, it’s the difference between hopelessness and hope, the feeling that your body is no longer a home you want to torch and burn to the ground.

People use the phrase of wanting to match their insides to their outsides, and I understand this now to an extent. I look at myself and that new space and realize both need work, but at least we’re starting from common, hopeful ground.

lovely living

the time I bought things and told you about them

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Over the summer I made a mistake in trusting a blogger I didn’t know. I packed the whole of my life in 49 boxes–I would bring to California only the things I loved and needed–however, I found myself browsing blogs during a work trip to Arizona and I happened upon a blue floral skirt from a company called Chicwish. It was gorgeous, cheap, emphasis on cheap. And although I consider myself savvy–I know the awareness and affiliate game that happens between brands and bloggers–I fell in love with a piece of fabric that was more about what I envisioned for California than the California in reality. I was buying something because I was frightened of all the uncertainty that came with moving across the country. I wasn’t buying something I needed from someone I trusted.

Big mistake.

To say the quality of the skirt I received was abhorrent would be an understatement. I’ve seen better quality at the $1 stores I used to patron when I was a kid in Brooklyn. I would be the girl in the flammable skirt living in the gold, citrus state. Tossing a bucket of salt into a gaping wound (even worse than believing bloggers who are routinely paid to lie on a daily basis because elevating that brand sure looks good on paper), was Chicwish’s return policy. I had to pay to ship and return my item, and after over a month wait, I reached out to the brand to query about my return to which I received an offer for store credit.

When I write your clothes are terrible quality as a reason for my return, I certainly DO NOT want store credit. Essentially, I spent $20+ of my hard-earned money on a crap skirt (initial shipping + return shipping), of which I’ve only myself to blame for buying something to fill a void. I could make this post about the influencer marketing racket (of which I’ve been privy on the agency/brand side), however, I’m trying on positivity for size.

I have a few close friends who are bloggers, friends whom I love and trust, and even then I’ll ask: would you buy this with your own money, or is this product good enough considering you got it for free? Because you could so easily make allowances for things that don’t deplete your bank account. You tend to overlook flaws and inconvenient return policies.

Before I moved to California, I went on an insane home shopping spree–an event of which I’m constantly reminded whenever I view my bank and credit card statements. I left much of my furniture in New York, and I found myself buying A LOT of new things (couch, bookshelves, rug, kitchen carts, etc), and the purchases added up. That, and the fact that my apartment is pretty expensive, has forced me on a strict budget. Luckily I work from home so I don’t have to worry about clothes, gas, and parking, and most of my disposable income is spent on books, food, and fitness.

Today I’m sharing some of my choice investments.

For the past seven weeks I’ve been struggling with heavy breakouts, and it wasn’t until visiting a dermatologist two weeks ago did I learn that I had a stubborn case of folliculitis (my prescribed topical regimen, below). Infected pimples covered the sides of my face and ran down my arms, shoulders, chest, and back. I was miserable. My doctor prescribed an oral and topical antibiotic and I’ve been washing my face with a cleanser that has 5% benzoyl peroxide. My condition has improved by 75%, but I’ve had to make massive adjustments to my skincare regimen. Lately, I’ve been using Simple skincare (I really like their exfoliating wipes and water-free cleansers), Dermalogica and Murad moisturizers. The holy grail of my purchases is Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion. This really works. Trust me on this one. I typically use this before I go to bed and blemishes vanish by morning. While the Drying Lotion didn’t solve my stubborn skin care problem, it helped before I saw a doctor, and made taking meetings outside of my home bearable.

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I work out pretty often and much of what I wear during the week is athletic gear. I have a pretty big selection since I sweat heavily and need to cycle through my gear pretty often. So I look for clothing that will stand up to multiple washes, clothing that is sweat absorbent and has the flexibility to move how I move. I’ve hated Lululemon since 2009 because they simply do not make quality clothes for curvy women, and I always felt like I needed Crisco to pull on their tops and forget about their leggings.

To supplement leggings I’ve collected from Zella, Old Navy and Gap Body (Gap Body is good, not great, and I’ve found that my Old Navy gear lasts longer), I recently discovered Beyond Yoga via a 50% sale in my hot yoga studio. The pants are soft, roomy, completely absorbent and really stand up to the fact that I need to throw them in the wash every week. They’re on the pricey side, admittedly, so I have a few investment pieces and supplement with Old Navy and Zella (when I can get them on sale).

As I mentioned, I sweat. A LOT. So much that my mat, which is often promoted to those who take Bikram or hot yoga, isn’t stopping me from sliding. I purchased a yogitoes mat towel and I have absolutely no regrets. Since yoga is a huge part of my life (I practice 3-4x/week), buying a towel was essential, especially since I tend to be injury-prone.

Since I spend most of my time working in front of a computer, eating, working out or snapping photos of my cat, I don’t need fancy handbags whose cost are the equivalent of a month’s rent. Expensive finery used to be important to me but the desire was more about projecting a life lie I was living rather than having people get to know me without all the accoutrements. I’m not knocking expensive things, live your life, but coveting the latest handbag is no longer part of my life. For the past year I’ve been toting around a canvas bag, and it was only until recently that I upgraded to a $150 (!!!) tote from Cuyana, specifically this one. I own a Celine bag and there is literally no difference in the quality and suppleness of the leather. The only difference being that I didn’t cry when I reviewed my credit card statement because I dropped a few grand on a few scraps of leather and an embossed label. I love this tote (I’ve posted another snap, along with a photo of a wallet I purchased, below) because I can fit my laptop, books, gym clothes, water bottle, you name it. I’ve already managed to stain it and I found the leather pretty easy to clean. Plus, it’s presentable for business meetings and client lunches. #WINNING

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Something’s happened since I’ve moved to California–I’m less of a morning person. While I naturally wake at 6, the first hour is a struggle and I can’t face the world (or email) without being heavily caffeinated. Breakfast used to be a grand affair, but now the idea of going near the stove is unthinkable. As a result, I was downing copious amounts of cereal (not good, people) or AB&J sandwiches (again, not good). On a recent trip to the market, I discovered Love Grown Oatmeal, and it’s GLUTEN-FREE! As my friend Amber would say, GET INVOLVED. I add water (or almond milk) to the mixture, heat in the microwave for one minute, and top it with fresh fruit, and breakfast is done. I can then spend a good hour catatonic in front of the computer before I even contemplate a shower.

PRAISE BE.

I also have an upcoming post about items I’ve purchased for my home and a MONSTER post on the 50+ books I’ve read this year, but if you have any questions about any of the above, or about folliculitis, drop me a note in the comments.

lovely living

living with only that which you love + need

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I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance. ― Beryl Markham, West with the Night

Someone once asked me about the kind of man I’m looking for, to which I responded, I want someone who’s been through war and has some of the bruises, but doesn’t make changing bandages his life’s work. Give me a man with scars on his back and I’ll deliver you my still-beating heart. Tell me you’ve carried the weight of the world on your back and you’ve somehow survived, in-tact and victorious.

Over the past few years I feel as if living in New York has become a wound that never closes; it festers and aches with the passing of each day, and I spend most of my time searching for thicker bandages, new ways to dress an injury that will never heal. I quit my job (ambulance, CPR); I made it my goal to see much of the world (ointment, cloth, and bandage); I came home in pursuit of a life of intention (dressing, redressing)–but still I bleed. Still the phantom ache.

During a trip to Nicaragua, a man asked me if I could move anywhere in the states where would I live. Don’t think, he said. California, I said. As soon as the words left my mouth I found myself surprised over the fact that I’d uttered them. I’m from New York–it’s in our DNA to eschew all things west coast. I spent a good deal of my life on the Biggie side of the Tupac/Biggie war (although technically Tupac grew up in East Harlem), preached about the pernicious disease that was California with its tomb of lithe bodies, Less Than Zero nihilism, and monosyllabic vocabulary.

And then I got wise to the fact that I based my opinions on stereotype. How could I believe that a small fraction of people were emblematic of an entire state? Also, how could I ignore all the pinpricks that had transformed the place I’ve known for the whole of my life into a stranger? Imagine waking one morning to find the streets you once loved erased and the friends with whom you’ve shared your most intimate secrets suddenly packing up shop and scattering about the globe. A certain kind of sadness sets in when you realize your house is less like a home and more like the place to which your mail is being forwarded.

Now I wake to the thrill of saying, I’m leaving. It hasn’t quite hit me that I’m leaving New York this year. Maybe it’s because bills continue to be stuffed into my mailbox, my books remain in bookcases, and lilacs stand stalwart in vases. The reality of my move out west feels like a whisper rather than a shout because I haven’t done anything other than to confirm the location of my new home. There are items to pack, mail to be forwarded, dozens of phone calls and lease negotiations to be made. I’m biding my time on this, waiting another month to launch the blitzkrieg.

Until then I’m slowly, deliberately removing items from my home.

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. ― William Morris

We won’t talk about the fact that I still own a Ayn Rand book. We’re just going to shuffle along; keep it moving, nothing to see. Know by the time I hit the “Publish” button, Night of January 16th will bask in a Brooklyn stoop sun.

Many of my friends are Kondo’ing their life. Don’t think I haven’t acknowledged that we’re at a place in our culture where the name of a Japanese decluttering consultant morphs into a verb. I’ve even circulated this humourous take on Kondo tackling Anthropologie (a refuge that straddles the spectrum of joy and clutter). Nearly all my friends have tried to press this book into my hands, and in response I shake my head because I don’t need to Kondo–owning what I love and need has been my practice for some time.

Over the past three years I’ve hemorrhaged books, cookbooks, clothes, shoes, accessories, cooking utensils, and anything that takes up unwanted space in my home. However, until this year my wardrobe and book collection have felt like clown cars–there was always more that could be discarded, and it took time to realize that living mindfully isn’t simply about discarding what is longer necessary, it’s about the connection you make with things before you purchase them. Do I really need this? What purpose or function does it serve? Do I really love this? Why does it bring me joy? Am I only filling a void with an object whose value will only depreciate and whose sheen will inevitably dull? I grew up poor, and for a time I was fixated on the accumulation of things because I felt it said something about me. You know what it said? I owned a lot of shit.

Because there’s a difference between owning things and things owning you. Did you ever consider how much time and energy you exhaust managing your things? The things need to be dry-cleaned. The things need to be dusted. The things need to be sorted and managed. The things need a lot of upkeep, don’t you think?

Years ago, I bought a gorgeous navy Jil Sander dress. It was classic yet architectural and I loved how I felt when I wore it. I considered it my “power dress” or whatever that means. Then stress consumed my waking hours, pasta became the sole food group and the dress remained unworn in my closet for three years. Recently, I zipped it up expecting to feel what I’d felt all those years before…but nothing. I stood in front of my mirror and fidgeted. The dress no longer brought me joy, in fact it was a scab-picker, a cruel reminder of my life all those years ago. And for a time I clung to it because it was beautiful and classic and Jil Sander.

When I met my dearest friend Persia last week for a long lunch it occurred to me that SHE would look so beautiful in the dress. I remember describing it to her, telling her that I sometimes still cleave to things for all the wrong reasons. She listened, her face was awash in light. So this morning I wrapped the dress in tissue and sent it to her home. Because bringing joy to my friends feels like a wound closing up. Love feels like a set of bandages discarded. Leaving feels like a wound healing.

There will come a time when my wardrobe won’t be the kind that covers wounds. There will come a time when I will trace my body with my hands and feel scars, not wounds. Let all the light in. Soon, soon.

cleaning out my closet

lovely living

the time I actually bought something + told you about it.

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I lead a very lean life. Most of my money is spent on food, fitness, travel, my cat, health care brokers and a very patient accountant who sometimes admonishes me when I send in my quarterly tax payments months late. Lately I’ve been regarding every acquisition as another item I’ll have to pay to move. When you get yourself in that mindset, you suddenly become acutely aware of the things you actually need versus what you want. You research your purchases, keep the samples you’re given, and you’re not beneath sampling handfuls of granola in your friend’s home because obviously you need to try before you buy. This is not an exaggeration–I was in my friend-slash-client’s home today for a work session and I asked about her coconut chia granola. Why waste money on something you can’t trust?

As a result, I don’t accumulate much (save my serious book-buying problem, for which I need a 12-step program), but when I do buy something know that it’s the BUSINESS.

You can probably tell from the snap above that I have a skincare affliction. I don’t buy or wear make-up, and don’t care much for fashion, but I take extremely good care of my skin. After wasting so much money on products that made my skin break out or moisturizers that were faux-hydrating, I’ve found that the Tata Harper line works best for my skin-type (combination in the summer with dry patches in the winter) and a little goes a long way. I’ve Grace to thank for this affliction, and after attending the launch party for her rebranded website, I scored a ton of Tata samples, which lead me to this glorious cleanser and an impulse beautifying face oil purchase when I was deep in a Tata hole–although I have to be honest and say that shopping on the Tata Harper site is a UX nightmare. The page load time is abysmally slow and the user flow/navigation are far from intuitive. I would’ve abandoned my cart in favor of ABC Carpet + Home had I not received a $25 gift card from Grace’s soiree.

Setting aside the clunky shopping experience, the products are REAL. I love the warm feel of the cleanser, which is the perfect salve for eliminating grime and debris after spending four hours in transit (did you hear about traces of BUBONIC PLAGUE on NYC’s subways?) And for someone who experiences random (and subtly attractive) dry patches, the beautifying oil made my skin glow without adding a layer of grease. I swear by this line and love that a little goes a long way. I know the products are a million dollars so I always try to get in on sales, score samples, and use as little of the product as possible.

Remember when I suffered from the horrible gluten-induced hive plague this summer? When I was prescribed steroids to reduce the intense inflammation which covered 85% of my body? You don’t? I sure as hell do. As a result, I’ve noticed drier than normal patches on my arms, elbows and calves, and if it weren’t for SkinFix, I’d hurl myself out of an open window. While the product doesn’t smell that hot, the results are glorious.

When I’m not working three projects and enduring an Odyssean commute, I’m mostly at home having people over for chow or living in unadulterated solitude with my cat (Exhibit A, below), burning candles. Right now I’m really loving this Apothia candle. Unlike Diptyque candles that tend to make me gag from the intense aroma, the Apothia line offers subtle scents that won’t knock you down cold when you enter a room. I also sniffed out (and subsequently purchased) this Mrs. Meyer’s Basil Candle after a recent visit to a friend’s home.

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Brief aside: AREN’T HIS PAWS REALLY CUTE?

Remember the boots I prattled on about the other day? Well, my BOGS have arrived and they’re fucking LIFE-CHANGING. I could be sweating in a tundra these boots are that remarkable. True to size, not only do they accommodate muscular calves, but they are waterproof, hold up well on ice, and make my feet feel so toasty I nearly cried walking to a meeting today. They may not be FASHUNable, but who cares? Change your shoes when you get indoors. Also, they don’t cost a million dollars.

Finally, I’m going to say this out loud: the Mophie is amateur hour when it comes to portable charging. Not only have two Mophies ruined THREE of my iPhone chargers, but I’m busier charging the Mophie rather than my actual phone. When I mentioned this to my mentor over dinner this week, he led me to the Poweradd. The Poweradd gives me FOUR charges for my iPhone 5, which is essentially a paperweight with the amount of time it takes for the battery to die. I cannot wait to take this on my trip to Nicaragua at the end of the month, but so far I’m pleased.

lovely living

a home of one’s own + a life worth coveting: small steps

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If this be a home, let it be filled with things baking. Hot loaves in ovens and the windows flung open to let the wind in. Let there be stacks of books, floor to ceiling, so they tower and tumble and sometimes fall to the floor. But that’s okay. It always is. At the end of the day all I need is a good book and a sugary bun. Life suddenly becomes that simple.

Funny how that happens.

After I announced that I was leaving my very high-profile, albeit stressful, job, something else happened. I came home and felt smothered by all the clutter, all the things I had accumulated over the past three years. Clothes pored out of closets, bags left askance, unread books spilled out of shelves — part of me wanted to get a trash bag and throw the lot of it out the window. Be done with it all. And this feeling grew with intensity when I attended a very auspicious gathering this past Sunday in a loft space that was austere, sparse, illuminated by candles and soft light. Much like how I’ve been surgical with my friends now comes the desire, or necessity, to be as ruthless with my possessions. A burning of sage, if you will.

Since November I stopped acquiring. Ceased the senseless stockpiling of shiny trinkets and plush tops, covetable handbags and painful shoes. Instead I returned to books, a reunion of sorts with an old lover once left asunder. I discovered Israeli food and made pita salad with sumac. I purchased magnolia candles and jasmine tea, which served to calm a stressful friend one Sunday. It occurred to me that I now only consumed goods in the context of experiences they had the potential to create. A morning in the kitchen dovetailed into a meal shared with an old friend. A story collection delivered sustenance, rejuvenation, and had me thinking in ways I hadn’t before. Fresh napkins lent a luxe air to a picnic on my living room floor.

I’m starting to realize that I’m happiest owning less and sharing, experiencing more.

Come this weekend I’m cleaning. Packing expensive shoes in their boxes and selling them (size 8/8.5, anyone?). Folding pretty dresses that no longer fit and donating them to charity. Letting the “status books” go and giving them to people who crave a good read. Tossing a bookcase that only creates more clutter in my home.

And then I’m stocking the fridge. Buying the candles, savoring the books. Falling in love with my home and my life all over again. This is a start, I guess.

thoughts welcome, always.

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lovely living

a big announcement + finding the love of your life…

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Over the past three years I’ve been in a committed relationship. From late nights when we’re so tired we whisper ourselves to sleep, to jaunts across the country at dawn, to emails feverishly exchanged, to grand, sweeping proclamations of our mutual respect and affection— this has all the makings (or trappings) of a great love. Only the object of my affection doesn’t have a name and it’s not a person, rather I’ve handed over my still-beating heart to a company, and my home has become an office whose lights burn way too far into the gloaming. My love, once passionate and resolute, has fallen to blight. My lover looks pale, run down, like a lady’s lipstick kissed off one too many times, and a house once illuminated — the place to which I gained keycard access three years ago — now flickers dim. Suddenly it’s cold, demanding and heartless because all of the lights have blown, the fire has gone out and we’re scrambling for warmth and shelter.

I’m afraid of low-flying planes. Giant machines suspended in midair frighten me. No amount of physics, soften-spoken flight attendants or brochures depicting calm figures enduring a catastrophe, can comfort me. Every time I set foot on a plane I wonder if this will be the flight that will break sky and plunge into the ocean.

I travel often for my job, so much so that I’ve achieved a certain kind of status, which affords me the luxury of boarding an aircraft early so I have time to quietly panic. A few weeks ago I found myself at LaGuardia Airport, watching the wind rattle the windows. Storm warnings along the East seaboard had been announced, but I had to take this trip. There’s no other way. Our miniature plane appeared frail, you could almost almost imagine the wings folding sheepishly into themselves, but I boarded nonetheless. By rote, I clipped my seatbelt, tucked in my magazines and answered the emails tumbling in from the night before. I’m always working. I’m always connected. I’m always tired.

Then the violence. The sky was dark, ominous, and our small plane began to shake. The pilots were determined to find a pocket of smooth air and we experienced severe drops. A man wearing a suit and spectacles suppressed a shout, while another man in the back screamed. The plane dipped sideways and my body went numb. I shook my hands; I couldn’t feel them. TSA regulations prevent crowding around the lavatories and in the aisles, the flight attendant crooned. Passengers laughed through their tears because getting up was the last thing anyone could do.

And all the while, I thought, why am I doing this?

When we landed in Washington, D.C., I told myself that I was done. Great love, we need to say our farewells, see other people.

I want to fall in love again. A deep, all-consuming love that will not alter. A love that won’t break from the enormity of it. I see a man who tells me that I’m using the wrong vernacular, that I’m not seeking a life/work balance, but I crave a life/life balance. This put my heart on pause. I suddenly woke up. Here I was trying to compartmentalize all of the things that make me, me: my predilection for business and social marketing, my affection for unearthing hot cakes from an oven, and making sense of my life through prose. I tried to give each of these passions my undivided attention, while the other two were tossed aside, treated like changelings, and every few years I found myself back to where I started. Frustrated that the supposed love of my life didn’t give me everything I needed. Then I realized that I need to design a life that gives each one of my loves the devotion and attention it deserves. Equal time on the playing field, if you will.

I make lists. This is how I think. I create a map for myself of all the people who have inspired, challenged or mentored me and I dissect their character. I’m hoping for commonalities. I diagram all of the jobs I’ve had and the characteristics about each one of them that excite and torment me. I’m hoping for commonalities. Finally, I jot down the core values that I hold close to my heart — I think I only have three or four, but as it turns out I’ve well over 50. Integrity, creativity, empowerment, collaboration, risk, fearlessness, sense of humor, hunger, are but a few of the traits that I’ve committed to paper. And then I start drawing arrows and lines, trying to find commonalities. Sifting through the noise and discovering what’s next…

Originally published + featured on Medium.

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Because everyone song has a coda: When I wrote this post yesterday, two months before I’m set to depart my current job, I have to confess I was a bit nervous to how people, namely my boss (who is my mentor), would respond. I wondered if he wouldn’t be able to see it for it was — a heartfelt goodbye. We had our time and now is the time for us to bloom, break ranks, and celebrate our mutual successes. And I couldn’t be more than moved when I serendipitously ran into him today, on my way to Morandi for brunch, and he hugged me and told me that my piece in Medium was beautiful. I was worried what you would think, I said. To which he responded, smiling, It was philosophical .

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lovely living